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50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

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If you are part of a negotiating team, make use of the opportunity to call for a

caucus. A caucus is when a negotiating team calls for a break and leaves the nego-

tiating table to confer in private. There are many ways to use this strategy. If nego-

tiations seem stalled, call a caucus so both sides can brainstorm new solutions to

keep the negotiations going, without revealing their ideas to the other side. If the

negotiations have suddenly gone in an unanticipated direction, it gives the par-

ties an opportunity to reassess where they are and determine if everyone involved

agrees that they should be heading in this direction. If the negotiations are heated,

a caucus can be used as a break to calm the situation down. If the team is feeling

pressure to concede on certain items, calling for a caucus gives you a chance to get

your team to recommit to a particular course of action. A caucus is certainly called

for if individual members of the team become agitated or express frustration with

the progress of the negotiations, or if a member takes on a role in the negotiations

that has not been assigned to them. A caucus gives you an opportunity to work out

problems with your own team in private. To do so in front of your opponent would

obviously undermine your team’s position in the negotiations.

Example 1

Shelly’s “Sweet Sixteen” party was coming up, so her parents sat down with their

daughter to discuss the details. Her mom and dad had already talked about it pri-

vately, and presumably had an agreement. Unfortunately, the negotiations got out

of hand when Shelly’s dad forgot what had been decided.

Mom: We’re planning on having your party here on Saturday night, Shelly. You

can invite up to 20 of your friends. We’ll just have chips and soda. We

don’t want it to be a late evening, because it might disturb the neighbors,

so we’ll have the party from 7:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Shelly: Twenty friends? You’re kidding! I’ve just started on my list, and I already

have 25 names. And that’s just my friends from school! I haven’t started

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50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

on the friends I’ve made over the summer at the pool. And they can’t go

home at 10:00 p.m.—that’s so “baby.” They would never expect a party

to end before midnight.

Dad: I think we can handle a few more kids—how about 35? And midnight

sounds okay.

Mom: (with some irritation) I’m not sure. That sounds like too many for here at

the house. Your dad and I already talked about this and agreed that 20

guests would be the limit. And midnight is definitely too late.

Dad: Actually, we could rent the VFW hall, and then the number of kids won’t

matter.

Shelly: (excited) That would be so cool, Dad. I could invite everyone!!

Mom: Hold on! I thought we agreed that this was to be a simple party.

Shelly: Mom! This is my “Sweet Sixteen” party. It’s special!!!

Mom: Well, okay. I guess the VFW will work. We could play records and you

guys could dance.

Shelly: We’ll get a band—everyone does. In fact, Jerry from down the street is in

a really good band that all of the crowd likes.

Dad: That would be great! It would keep everyone entertained.

Mom: (shocked) Jerry’s band from down the street? They’re a punk rock band!

Their music is totally inappropriate for sixteen year-olds.

Dad: Oh, I think the band would be fine. I’m sure we can ask them to tone it

down a little.

Shelly: And can we bring in pizza? Or maybe one of those “mile-long” hero sand-

wiches?

Dad: I like those—let’s do the hero sandwiches.

Mom: Time out! Dad, we need to talk, alone. Shelly, we’ll call you when we’re ready.

(During the caucus, Shelly’s parents reviewed their first planning dis-

cussion and went over what Shelly’s mom thought they had already

Exchanging Initial Offers

65

decided. When they called Shelly back in, her mom presented the revised

proposal.)

Mom: Okay, we’re going to rent the VFW hall, and you can invite more friends.

But you are limited to 40, and we will need to approve the list.

Shelly: All right. But we can have the band, can’t we?

Mom: No band, but your dad and I agree on getting a DJ to play. That way, we

will be better able to chaperone.

Shelly: A DJ? I guess that’s okay.

Mom: And we’re serving chips and sodas, but we’ll schedule the party for 8:00

p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Shelly: Dad, midnight, please!! 11:00 p.m. is for little kids!!

Dad: No, sorry. Your mom and I agree—11:00 p.m.

Shelly: Okay, but no Sweet Sixteen birthday party decorations. That’s so lame.

Mom: Agreed. Does that mean no presents, too?

Shelly: No way!! I want presents!!

Conclusion

In spite of their prior planning, this mom-and-dad negotiating team became

unglued during the negotiations, causing them to lose control and make

compromises they hadn’t intended to make. Mom’s call for a caucus gave

them a chance to regroup and re-state their original objective, which was to make

sure Shelly’s Sweet Sixteen party was a fun and safe evening, and not a huge pro-

duction.

Example 2

The contract negotiations between the company and the union had been going

on for days. The item currently on the table was the company’s offer to give each

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50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

individual member of the bargaining unit the option of being in the health insurance

plan offered in the contract or receiving the same amount of money the company

pays for health coverage as a tuition reimbursement benefit for the employee or any

member of his or her immediate family.

The union’s lead negotiator misunderstood the proposal, and thought he was

being asked to choose between a health insurance plan and a tuition benefit plan

for all members. The company’s negotiator didn’t recognize the misunderstanding,

and the following conversation occurred.

Union:

You’re offering a choice between health insurance and

tuition payments? What kind of a deal is this?

Company:

Hey, it’s a good proposal. A lot of employees have spouses

who can get health insurance coverage through their work.

The tuition benefits will encourage the workers to be pre-

pared for new job opportunities. With the cost of college

educations so high, many will want to use it for their chil-

dren’s education.

Union:

Why are you so concerned about new job opportunities?

Are you holding out on us?

Company:

No, I’m just saying that tuition benefits are sometimes a

good substitute for health insurance.

Union:

(angrily) I’m not presenting this proposal to my people.

Tuition in place of health insurances? They’ll think I’ve lost

my mind. What is this, some attempt to undermine me

with my members?

Company:

I don’t know what you’re so worked up about—we’re will-

ing to spend the same amount of money!!

Union negotiator #2: Can we take a break?

Union:

We don’t need a break—we’re not discussing this stupid

proposal.

Union negotiator #2: Please—just a moment outside.

Exchanging Initial Offers

67

Union:

Okay, we’ll be back in 5 minutes.

(After Negotiator #2 explained that the choice of tuition

or health insurance benefits would be an individual choice

for each unit member and not a change in the contract for

everyone, the parties returned to the room.)

Union:

I’m sorry. I didn’t understand that your proposal was to

allow each individual member to choose between the health

coverage or the tuition benefit. I thought that the contract

would cover one or the other for everyone. I think that what

you’re proposing is a really good idea. Now, let’s move on.

Company:

Good, and I apologize for explaining it poorly.

Conclusion

Negotiator #2’s timely call for a caucus so she could explain the miscommunica-

tion in private saved the session. Negotiator #1 regained his footing, and the par-

ties were able to complete their negotiations.

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50 Practical Negotiation Tactics

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